Tamara Tabor-Smith at ODC September 24

29 Sep

A lucky break allowed me to see Amara Tabor-Smith at ODC September 24. I met her through Elizabeth Zimmer, who had been her instructor for Smith’s Master Program at Hollins College.and when Tabor-Smith said she had started out with Ed Mock that caught me, along with her vibrant personality.

EarthBodyHOME involved four performers,including Tabor-Smith and co-director Dohee Lee. That further marked the shamanistic qualities of this work based on the brief, turbulent life of Cuban-born artist Anna Mendieta. The power of this ritualistically-strengthened work was assisted by composer/musician Jackeline Rago, Dana Kawano’s costume and set design, the video skills of Eric Koziol and Jose Maria Francos’ lighting.

Entering ODC Theatre’s lobby close to the doors opening, drums were active and the crowd particularly scrunched up. Rita Felciano and I found ourselves behind a woman taking images on her cell phone which enabled us to see the action otherwise lost to view. Plastic bottles of honey were being passed with the admonishment of taking some as emblematic of life’s sweetness. While this was going on a slender woman with extraordinarily beautiful hands, a body of evident agility and muscular proportion, slithered through the crowd rubbing her hands and occasionally gesturing over the length of an onlooker in what seemed to be acknowledgment and a blessing.

Someone spoke as well in phrases intoning a departure from usual theatrical norms, exact wording flitting by me minus any attempting to scribble salient words to remember.

When the audience was admitted to the theater, the audience thinned sufficiently to reveal an oblong shape in the middle of the lobby, scattered over and around with red petals, the object itself a square with a mummy-like indentation lined with grass-like wisps of green. If not sensed before, I knew the 70 non-stop minutes were going to be unusual.

Inside the theater a video image of water completely filled the back of the stage with musicians downstage left; upstage from them a huge hanging, mobile-like construction of what seemed picture frames juxtaposed one against another, hanging almost to knee height. In front of this assembly a woman in white stood, motionless, arms crossed at the waist, her skirt a cascade of gathered ruffles, face obscured by black hair.

ODC’s stage space invites mystery with the audience able to look down on the procedure, and the space between the figure and the mobile-like construction and two figures downstage right, noted but not the focus, lent a pregnant air beginning the seventy-minute performance. An apt phrase for all of a sudden the ruffled creature began of writhe and in a few seconds out from underneath the ruffles and bent knees came a small woman with dark ponytail in lime green trunks rolling forward, confined by a length strip of red ribbon firmly wound around her groin and vagina.

The major action followed, the prolonged release of the ribbon, with the subsequent sense of upbringing and initiation into adulthood. The progress was symbolized from upstage left to down stage right, where the two figures crouched and issued initiatory sounds. Not least among this group was Dohee Lee, Tabor-Smith’s collaborator, clearly sharing affinity for the unseen world of divination.

The seventy-minute work finished with an impassioned chant and departure through a backstage right exit which the audience was invited to utilize, an exit framed completely with a honey brown tone bark and branches; clearly an intensive labor of construction, it seemed criminal the passage would exist for just three performances.

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